On January 3, 2017, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a plan that would allow students whose family earns less than $125,000 a year accepted to a city or state university in New York — including two-year community colleges — to attend for free. Under the plan, called the “Excelsior Scholarship”, almost one million middle class families and individuals would qualify to attend college for free.

If the program receives legislative approval, it will be fully implemented by 2019. However, Governor Cuomo plans to begin applying the plan starting fall 2017. I believe the proposed plan would be beneficial in helping college students who come from low-income backgrounds to break out of the cycle of poverty with education.

Hopefully, New York’s approach could become a model for states across the nation. Total student debt in the United States has reached over one trillion dollars, and will continue to rise. Individuals in their early twenties are graduating from school with thousands of dollars in debt.

Technology is advancing quickly, and as the demand for skilled workers rises, many jobs require more than a high school diploma.

According to an article posted on New York State’s official website, in just seven years from now, in 2024, around 3.5 million additional jobs are estimated to require a minimum two years of college.

Studies show that individuals with a bachelor’s degree will likely earn 66 percent more than individuals without a college degree. Expensive colleges that can only be attended by wealthy individuals will continue to increase income inequality.

We need to afford everyone the chance of having a well-paying job, without leaving those who cannot afford high tuition bills behind.

To maintain a strong economy and try to lower unemployment rates, we should help those who come from lower income backgrounds, so they can break out of the cycle of poverty.

In contrast to New York, California Governor Jerry Brown is considering eliminating the state’s “Middle Class Scholarship Program” that provides financial assistance to families with an annual income below $156,000.

The program, which covers up to forty percent of tuition and fees, may be phased out for new students as early as fall 2017 due to recent budget shortfalls.

It’s important that the plan delivers on the high expectations that Governor Cuomo has created. The “Excelsior Scholarship” is estimated to cost around $163 million, but many education officials believe this number is too low.

Although around 940,000 students would qualify, many currently attend private universities and colleges out of state, leaving around two hundred thousand students and families who would benefit.

If New York public colleges were tuition free, fewer students could decide to attend college out-of-state, leading to overcrowding at the state schools.

Education can break someone free from the poverty cycle.

Giving all students the opportunity to receive a college education, regardless of their background, will create a more equitable system to unify an unequal and divided America. The “Excelsior Scholarship” is a step in the right direction.